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Global orchestra performs from home amid outbreak

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-10 09:55
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Initiated by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, the Global Chinese Orchestra has performed every year in China since its founding in September 2015.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Every year, overseas musicians return to China to perform as the Global Chinese Orchestra with musicians based here. However, this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual event has been moved online with overseas musicians sharing performances made from their homes.

On Sept 27, conductor Lyu Jia, who is the president and artistic director of the orchestra, appeared in Beijing and gathered with overseas musicians through the internet.

A string quartet from the National Center for the Performing Arts, consisting of violinist Liu Xuan, violinist Zhao Jingjing, violist Zhuang Ran and cellist Song Tao, performed repertories during the event, including The Merry Widow Waltz from Franz Lehr's The Merry Widow, an operetta in three acts, and the famous aria, Libiamo ne'lieti calici, from La Traviata, an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi.

"Every year, the annual concert is like a reunion party for overseas Chinese musicians but this year is very special because we cannot meet up and perform together in the concert hall," says conductor Lyu, adding that usually the concert sees repertories that combine original Chinese works with Western classical pieces.

Initiated by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, the Global Chinese Orchestra has performed every year in China since its founding in September 2015.

Lyu says that the annual concerts have each had different themes. For example, in 2016, which marked the 400th anniversary of the death of the English playwright William Shakespeare and Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) playwright Tang Xianzu, the orchestra played such works as Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet and Wan Fu, an aria from the original Chinese opera, The Peony Pavilion, composed by Chinese musician Ye Xiaogang with the libretto by Tang. In 2017, the theme was the Silk Road, featuring pieces including the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No 9 in D Minor and Racing Horses, an original Chinese piece for the erhu (two-stringed fiddle) by Chinese composer Huang Haihuai.

During the event, Lyu also announced that a charity foundation has been launched by the Global Chinese Orchestra and this year they will give music training to students of ten primary schools located in poverty-stricken areas of China.

"Thanks to the internet, we are able to share music together. It is a different experience of playing music at home and share with my friends at my home country," says Ma Ke, principal bassoon player of Detroit Symphony Orchestra, who called from his home in Detroit, the United States. Born in Shanghai, where he started violin lessons at the age of 5, Ma started his professional career in 2000 when he was appointed principal bassoon of the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra (now the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra). In 2004, he was appointed as a bassoon player of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, making him the first Chinese wind player to earn such a title in a major US orchestra.

For the initiator of Global Chinese Orchestra Lyu, the idea of gathering overseas Chinese musicians in an orchestra was a longtime wish.

The 55-year-old Lyu from Shanghai studied conducting at the University of Arts in Berlin in 1988 after graduating from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. He won the Golden Prize and Favorite Conductor Award in the international conducting competition, Antonio Pedrotti, in Trento, Italy, in 1988. In 1991, he was appointed as the chief conductor of the Italian opera house, Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, making him not only the opera house's first chief conductor from Asia, but also its youngest. Lyu worked and lived abroad for years, conducting 2,000 concerts and operas in Europe and the US, before he returned to China and served as the chief conductor of the National Center for the Performing Arts Orchestra in 2011.

"More and more Chinese musicians have studied at music schools abroad and played in Western orchestras. They've been recognized by Western audiences. I feel proud to have them back home and perform for the Chinese audiences," says Lyu.

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